Study: Heroin Addiction Treatment Should Include Inpatient and Outpatient Therapy

Treatment for heroin addiction is most effective if it includes both inpatient and outpatient therapy, according to a new study.

Researchers at Boston Medical Center compared two groups of patients addicted to heroin: those who started buprenorphine treatment while in the hospital and then were referred directly to an outpatient buprenorphine treatment program, and patients who took a tapered dose of buprenorphine in the hospital to help with withdrawal, but only received referral information about local community treatment programs. Buprenorphine is an opioid substitute used to treat opioid addiction. It helps curb opioid withdrawal symptoms.

The study found 37 percent of patients in the group directed to the buprenorphine treatment program reported no illicit drug use in the month after leaving the hospital, compared with just 9 percent of those who only received general referral information, according to HealthDay. Patients in the outpatient treatment group reported fewer days of illicit drug use, and less drug use overall during the six months after they left the hospital.

The study of 139 patients appears in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Unfortunately, referral to substance abuse treatment after discharge is often a secondary concern of physicians caring for hospitalized patients,” lead researcher Dr. Jane Liebschutz said in a news release. “However, our results show that we can have a marked impact on patient’s addiction by addressing it during their hospitalization.”

17 Responses

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    John Mark Blowen APRN

    August 2, 2014 at 8:06 PM

    Inpt stabilization would be particularly beneficial for pregnant women with opiate addiction who present for medication assisted treatment. It is difficult or impossible to suppress withdrawal for more than a few hours given the conservative dosing required in an out patient facility. We really know little about intrauterine abstinence syndrome but more and more is known about the effect of prenatal stress on the developing human being.Getting people feeling better as soon as possible is fundamental to helping them get into and learn how to maintain recovery.

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    August 1, 2014 at 6:52 AM

    Opioid addiction is a chronic condition and should be treated accordingly.

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    Susan Weinstock , M.D.

    July 29, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    As a physician trained in addiction medicine, I wanted to reiterate an important point made by Rocky Hill. Given the current literature on the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment, the design of this study put lives at risk and should be viewed as medical malpractice.

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